The SPARK [Skills Promoted through Arts, Reading and Knowledge] Model: Training Manual

Beverly Lewman

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This manual includes all the information needed to train staff to use the SPARK (Skills Promoted through Arts, Reading, and Knowledge) Model, a literacy-based creative arts curriculum in which young children learn developmental and school readiness skills by actively attending to stories, and by participating in activities based on music, art, and drama. SPARK is a child-centered curriculum in which children learn by being engaged in hand-on open-ended activities. The curriculum has two major educational focuses: it introduces general early childhood concepts and skills through multi-sensory activities and enables teachers to address children's individual goals. The first section of the manual provides background information about the model, information about developmentally appropriate creative arts activities, and information about ways to create an inviting environment for all children. The major portion of the manual is dedicated to staff in-service training workshops. The workshops include hands-on activities to prepare teaching staff to become familiar with the curricular materials and the teaching strategies used in the model. They are designed to help teachers use the creative arts as vehicles to teach children. 

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Bibliographic Information:

Beverly Lewman. The SPARK [Skills Promoted through Arts, Reading and Knowledge] Model: Training Manual (1997). Redleaf Press: St. Paul, MN. (300 pages).

Sponsoring Agency: U.S. Dept of Education

Language: English

Reading Level: Average

Formats Available: Printed Material

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(The SPARK Curriculum will be published by Redleaf Press in Fall 2001 )

Redleaf Press
450 N. Syndicate Ave., Suite 5
St. Paul, MN

Phone: (800) 423-8309
Fax: (800) 641-0115


Languages Available: English

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Producer Information:

Intended User Audience:

This curriculum was developed primarily for administrators and inservice trainers in early childhood, early intervention, and early childhood special education. Experienced administrators and inservice trainers will find this training manual especially useful. The training manual is developed for a universal population living in the United States for whom English is the first language or who are proficient in English. 

Product Development:

The training manual was developed by the SPARK project staff. The cultural and linguistic group represented is primarily European American. 

Product Evaluation:

The developers of this training manual have no plans to field test the manual. 

Product Dissemination:

As of 1998, approximately 63 SPARK kits have been disseminated in Illinois, North Carolina, Kentucky, Minnesota and Louisiana. 

Summary Biblio Info Availability Producer Info Users' Comments Excerpts

Users' Comments:

Tracy Tucker - undergraduate student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

The SPARK curriculum is intended for English-speaking teachers, but their role is to include parents who speak other languages. SPARK includes descriptions of the stories in Spanish for Spanish-speaking parents, but the teacher would have to translate all of the materials and activities. Books about other cultures also help make the curriculum inclusive. The activities are all planned out for the teacher on a day-by-day basis. The graphics, illustrations, photos, and music presented in the curriculum include children with disabilities and children and families from different backgrounds. Some examples of the variety of ethnicities presented through the books are African, Native American, European American, Cuban, African American, South African, English, Lao, Hmong, and Japanese. The groups are represented in books that reflect them in different manners. Most tend to be presented in a contemporary, nonstereotypical manner to which the children could relate. The images of the intended users and recipients of the curriculum are represented to a great extent. There are books with children with disabilities and books with children from diverse backgrounds as well. Much emphasis was placed on having material to send home to parents in Spanish, and books were available in Spanish, yet there were not any units focused on the Spanish or Hispanic American ethnicity. The closest was about a rooster of Cuban descent.

There are many ways in which any curriculum can be adapted for families--not only for children with disabilities and those from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. For children with different developmental levels, a teacher could allow the older and more experienced children to answer or perform an activity first so that the younger children could get a better idea of what was going on. The teacher could also ask for simpler answers from younger children and ask older children to elaborate upon their answers. Some adaptations for children with disabilities and delays would be to have a guide for a movement activity, who could be an aide or another child. The teacher could accept modified answers from a child with communication issues. Children and families from different backgrounds would benefit from having some one-on-one time with the teacher and some instruction in their own languages if necessary. The teacher could also elaborate on standard curriculum suggestions and send notes home for busy parents to make things easier for the family. They could provide materials to send home whenever possible--a strategy that works well for families who don't have many resources. The teacher needs to offer any type of adaptation necessary based on the child's current situation.

I would definitely use SPARK in my classroom because I think that the activities are thoroughly planned out and would work nicely into an hour each day of the week. I like how the children can choose to participate in any of three activity centers. I really like how the children can actively participate in all steps of the program. I would recommend the curriculum to others because the curriculum promotes the acceptance and respect of many cultures and ethnicities around the world. It is a great idea to introduce the children to this idea at such an early age. The curriculum also includes units with children with disabilities, which may give the children a new understanding of their peers with disabilities. The curriculum also allows the teacher to embed objectives through the various skills performed in each activity.

Elizabeth Bacon - graduate student in Special Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The intended audience for the SPARK curriculum is preschool children (3-5 years old) and their teachers. SPARK is intended to allow preschool teachers to implement the program in their classroom to include children of all abilities and children with special needs. Although the curriculum is designed for English-speaking teachers, the intention is for the teachers to include parents who speak other languages. The curriculum contains materials, such as stories in Spanish, that enable the teacher to include Spanish-speaking parents easily. Certainly, for an inclusive curriculum to be successful with families for whom English is a second language, a lot more than providing stories in Spanish is required. For example, there are books that tell stories about other cultures, which provide a "stepping stone" to including families from those cultures.

Although SPARK was not developed for children with disabilities, the curriculum literature encourages teachers to make adaptations for these children. It would not be difficult to adapt the curriculum for children of different abilities or for those with special needs because the curriculum is easy to use and simply presented. The various ethnic groups in the SPARK curriculum books are African, European American, Native American, Cuban, and African American. Also included are stories that include South African, English, Inuit, Lao, Hmong, and Japanese characters. Children from any of these backgrounds would feel included by learning about these stories in their class. Also, the class as a whole would benefit from learning about its members.

The graphics and illustrations do include children with disabilities and families from different backgrounds. Examples of each ethnicity are presented. These families are represented in the books that the curriculum centers around, and these books were obviously chosen because of the nonstereotypical manner in which the material is presented. Many of the books include children with disabilities and children from different backgrounds. There did not seem to be a story about Hispanic families; including one would be a good addition.

I would definitely use this curriculum in a classroom setting. I wish that I had this curriculum when I was teaching preschool. It would be particularly beneficial for first-year teachers because of all the ideas. The curriculum is easy to use and has so many ideas that it would be a wonderful addition to any classroom. I would recommend it to all preschool teachers. Certainly those teachers who are having difficulty incorporating multicultural issues into their curriculum would benefit from using this curriculum. I believe that the activities are the best part of this curriculum because theory does not help a teacher much when he or she is trying to come up with meaningful lesson plans.

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